Early Choctaw History

Map showing the Natchez Trace running through the Choctaw and Chickasaw lands.
Before the United States expanded beyond the Mississippi River, the land that would become Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee was known as the Southwest.  This map shows the Old Natchez Trace passing through Choctaw and Chickasaw lands.

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The Choctaw people's ancestral homeland spanned from most of central and southern Mississippi, into parts of eastern Louisiana and parts of western Alabama. The Choctaw were fierce warriors, excellent farmers, and skilled traders.

Agriculture was important to the Choctaw people. The Choctaw often grew great surpluses of corn and other crops to trade with other American Indian nations, and later Europeans and Americans, throughout their homeland and along the Natchez Trace.

Sports have always played an important role in Choctaw culture. Stickball and chunky stone were used to imitate war, and in some instances, acted as an alternative to war. These games were often used to settle rivalries and disputes between different tribes and families. Stickball also created friendly competition amongst different clans and tribes.

The Choctaw were fierce warriors, and during the early 1700s they became allies with European forces, often aiding in battles against other American Indian groups. This was not uncommon for tribes during the 1700s and 1800s. Alliances provided a measure of security to the tribes and established powerful trade connections. The French were one of the first European groups to ally with the Choctaw, and in the early 1700s their combined forces decimated the Natchez Indians, killing most of them, and forcing the rest to flee their homelands and join other tribes.

After the United States became established in 1776, many American Indian tribes aided the American government through trade and warfare.

With the influx of American colonizers settling in the Southern United States, American Indian peoples were soon displaced from their homelands, sometimes by treaties and political manipulation, and other times by force. In 1816, the Choctaw chiefs were persuaded to trade some of their homelands east of the Tombigbee River. By 1820, they were asked to give up even more of their lands. With this trade, many Choctaw left and accepted new land in Oklahoma and Arkansas. You can learn about the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma by visiting their website.

The changes did not stop there. In May of 1829, a southern congressman introduced the Indian Removal Act into Congress. It included tribes in the southeastern United States including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole and Choctaw Indian tribes. Hundreds of petitions flooded Washington D.C. claiming this act was immoral, destructive, and wrong. After heated debate, President Andrew Jackson and the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, forcing the Choctaw and other tribes, to relinquish their homelands completely and move westward. The act passed the House in May 1830, by only five votes.

The Choctaw walked this long journey from Mississippi to Oklahoma, a harsh trek that killed many along the way. The first American Indian tribe to remove to Oklahoma, the Choctaw suffered greatly. Roughly 70,000 people were forced out of the region and at least 3,000 lost their lives on the march. This forced walk is now commemorated as the Trail of Tears.

Some Choctaw Indians remained in Mississippi, and some returned years later. Today, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is located in Choctaw, Mississippi, near Philadelphia, approximately 25 miles east of the Parkway at milepost 160.


Last updated: February 16, 2022

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